I cursed out loud. The moped I had rented wasn’t there. I was about to be late to my doctors appointment and already for the fourth time in two weeks, my moped had been borrowed by someone else.
The moped was to be rented out to me exclusively; after all, I had paid for it, but the owner of the moped kept insisting that he had been taking it in for “maintenance.” Right.
I summoned the elevator, about to head up and cancel my doctors appointment when the apartment manager held me back. She fished around in her purse and procured a set of keys that she waved in front of me.
“I overheard your conversation on the phone. Take my moped instead.”
So here I was, riding in the midst of Vietnam’s hectic traffic, on a moped that didn’t belong to me, towards a doctor’s appointment I was undoubtedly late for.
How did this all happen? How did I get the keys to a moped who’s owner I didn’t even know the last name of?
Several weeks ago, after having successfully negotiated the lease of an apartment with the apartment manager, I had taken it upon myself to gift her and her staff a fancy box of pastries.
It wasn’t because I fancied her or wanted something in exchange; it was just something out of habit, a habit I’ve practiced for the past ten years— building a rapport and establishing a network.
Whenever I expect to be in a professional relationship with someone I’ve met long term, my car mechanic, my banker, my attorney, my favorite restaurant owner, my apartment manager, my masseuse, etc., I always make it a habit to gift them with something small, inexpensive, but thoughtful.
The reason I do this isn’t because I expect anything in return. The goal is just to be cordial. These are the people you’re going to have a lasting relationship with over the years and if you give back without expecting anything in return, you’ll be surprised if you ever need their help. Like my apartment manager, they’ll go out of their way to help you, all because of one box of pastries.
Had I not gone out of my way to picking up a box of pastries for my apartment manager, would she have offered her moped? It’s possible, but not likely. At least not at the risk of offering her moped to someone that’s uninsured.
When you give to people without asking for anything in return, what you get back in return, especially when you least expect it, makes it worth doing. And even if you do never get back anything in return, all you would’ve lost is a box of pastries and that’s a small price to pay compared to the connections you’ve built.